Once upon a time our communities thrived, were more respectful to each other, cooperated more and life seemed simpler. Once upon a time, grandma and grandpa entertained us with stories as we sat at their feet enraptured by their wrinkles as we learned how they talked and related to their world. They taught us both hard and soft lessons on life. Elders in indigenous communities are called uncles and aunties by all and are a bit feared and looked up to. They are sharp and very, very aware. They have a place of reverence.
Look carefully at an elder and perhaps you will begin to see the lessons meant for you right before your eyes. First their eyes…not as sharp as in their youth, but they have a different way of seeing. They see with their senses and see what is important and leave the rest. Look at the cadence of speech, usually slow and deliberate making every word count. On Maui we are blessed to have the Elder, Ram Das live among us. His few words come out about as slow as I’ve ever heard yet every word lands exactly on the places where we most need them. An elders shoulders are usually a bit stooped…maybe they have learned the lessons of humility that have yet to come to the younger ones. They seem to have a natural bowing to the gods perhaps. Elders move slower than the rest while driving or walking. The lesson of slowing down seems to be a good one for us now too. Yes? Many elders may not remember what they had for breakfast, but will be able to tell us what is really important from 30 years ago…or what is important today. The elders’ gift to us is eloquence and grace.
Without elders we, as as a world community suffer. When I look around at the current economic, racial, war or some other chaos from mother nature or by our own doing I see a lack of elders to hold us, to bring us back to our center, to help us remember who we are and where we came from.
For a couple of years in my very early life there was a lot of chaos. One memory that I still hold onto is of my grandfather. He would wake me up from my afternoon nap, put me on his shoulders and take me for a walk or a ride. I remember sitting on those strong shoulders and feeling that I am wanted and OK. That memory sustained me and continues to inspire me.
A couple times a week I visit my 91 year old lady friend with dementia. Lucy can’t speak but a few words but we communicate well in other ways. And by God, Lucy is sharp. She does not miss a thing and knows how to appreciate and be appreciated.
Now here is the important part…when we see elders as valuable and crucial contributors to our world community, they will fill that role. They will stand with crooked backs from carrying so many burdens in their lifetime and point us towards solutions that we have yet to imagine. They will inspire our leaders to wake up. So today? Kiss and bless an elder…let them know they are seen and valuable. Watch them blossom before your eyes.